Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter, with some unusual finds

This week, I slam-dunked a lot of shared items into the net that is Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught and share news, ideas and data that comes through my feed, focusing on communications strategy and social media.  This week, some of my shared items were finds that surprised even me--so I'll try to point those out in a week crowded with sharing:

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Share the road with October's top 10 tips and issues

October was one crowded highway on this blog, but I'm always happy to share the road--and good tips, news and issues--with you.  Here are this month's most-read posts. Pull over and take a rest stop while you catch up:
  1. Can you pass my "puddle test" for social media?  It's all about how and whether you get your feet wet. Tips here for both the timid first-timer, and those who feel like it's raining apps and dogs, and don't know where to splash first. This month's most-read post.
  2. Is Twitter like handling live Q&A? asked a reader. Yes and no, I say--check out the comparison for tips on handling tweets and audiences.
  3. Do you need a prompt to journal? I shared how much I like Oh Life, an online tool that asks you via email how your day went and makes it easy to journal about it--just hit reply.
  4. How do you organize what you want to write or blog? I shared some tactics other writers and bloggers are using, and asked for your ideas, too, since we're all doing the equivalent of fall cleaning, aren't we?
  5. How you handle complex questions -- from live audiences or in media interviews --will be part of my November 3-4 workshop (details below), and was this month's third most popular post.  Smart listening is critical.
  6. The Internet: Like a big microphone you forgot was on.  That's how I reacted when I was reminded that DMs (direct messages) on Twitter are not as private as you think. Check your settings, and your words.
  7. Kindle announced new "singles,"  shorter (10,000 to 30,000 word texts) this month, and you liked my list of 13 ways communicators can use Kindle Singles to their advantage.
  8. When small data points become big stories reminds us not to overlook tiny details, data points, reader comments and other great sources for good storytelling.
  9. Cranking out a page, a phrase or a whole novel?  This popular post offers you online tools for doing all three writing tasks.
  10. Facebook just integrated with Skype, so I did some pie-in-the-sky(pe) to suggest how you might use the new Facebook Skype for communications activities, and to boost your own productivity.
And aside from the top 10, this week I hit 1,000 posts on this blog, so here are some home truths, conundrums and tips for bloggers I've developed along the way.
Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1,000 posts in: 7 blogging home truths and ideas

Blogger tells me that, counting some drafts-in-progress you'll see shortly, I've hit 1,000 posts (on this, my first blog--I now have a few others). That's perhaps an occasion to reflect, even if it did sneak up on me. Here are some home truths, conundrums and ideas I've developed from blogging "so much:"
  1. Persistence adds up:  I'm 5 and 1/2 years into working on this blog, which means the 1,000 posts average out to just over 3 posts a week. The early years are sparser; these days, I aim to post 5 times a week. Some days get a motherlode of posting. Honestly, that's nothing compared to many bloggers (see why, below). But it adds up, and fast. If you are just starting and blogging regularly seems like a long, endless road, start with 3 posts a week. I promise, it works.
  2. Selectivity widens your opportunities:  I decided a long time ago that this blog wouldn't aim to compete with the we-publish-12-times-daily blogs (which is why I'm only celebrating 1,000 posts on this blog).  I stick to my topics. And I have a hard-and-fast rule: I don't write posts that aren't ready for you to read.  A couple of those draft posts have been rolling around in this pinball machine for a while, but you won't see them until they're done. Readers have caught on, and they bring me ideas nearly every week nowadays: "You should write this," or "This made me think of you" or "Have you ever written about...?" is what they say.  That tells me they've read enough to know what I'm doing here, the nicest compliment of all.
  3. Vocalese takes time:  A good friend and colleague just ranted at me, nicely, for a long time about my distinctive blogging voice. I winced a lot, but since she's an amazing writer and can quote the blog to me, I have to admit that's working. Even so, my voice has taken time to develop on this blog; it's not something you solve overnight, especially if you've been a professional writer. How you refer to yourself, for example, will tie you up in knots, if you let it.  Don't let it, but do give some thought to the search engines. What sounds like you talking? What makes you smile, frown, ponder? Put that in. Say the things you think should be said. Keep it simple. Don't hit publish if it isn't you, at the core.  I don't object to bloggers writing clearly labeled sponsored posts, but most of them read like dreck, compared to the blogger's usual fare. Don't be two people when you write. Relax a little more, so we can tell there's a person in there.
  4. Watch, read, listen. Place yourself by looking around. You must show up, listen, read and watch what others are doing all around you in order to have what Bill Bradley, in his basketball days, called "a sense of where you are." Only then do you get to score. For that reason, my compatriots on Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader have done more to fuel my blogging than almost any other factor--not just in driving traffic here, but in allowing me to cast a wider net than I could imagine for ideas, news, fragments of blog posts in the making and more.  The "sources" whose posts I favorite and save in Reader, Twitter and Facebook are on my secret contributor list--without their insights, shares, comments and curating, this blog wouldn't have lasted this long. Go get your own list of inspirers, and ask them questions, all the time. You'll get the best blog posts that way.
  5. Love the crawlers. I don't mean the search-engine bots, though I'm glad they're getting my posts out where folks can find them. I mean the deep readers, the ones who keep coming back again and again and yet again.  Sometimes they're regulars and sometimes they're newcomers. They like to dive deep...and then, eventually, they call or email or DM me and say, "Would you ever do a retreat for...?" or "speak at our meeting?" or "think about helping us figure out what to do when...?" Sure, absolutely.  Love that educated consumer of my services. Please keep reading.
  6. Have a secret goal.  Sure, I blog here to share my expertise and market my services and prompt potential and current clients to think about issues. But the blog neatly solves, at the same time, a personal and professional goal I had to write more of my own stuff. Being your own publisher makes that eminently possible. One thousand posts in, I think that goal's well underway.
  7. Sometimes, be fast, super-fast.  You don't have to be Right On Top of a story that's breaking in most cases when you blog, beat reporters excepted.  But once in a while, it pays to be able to drop everything and respond to a current situation. Weighing in thoughtfully and fast is a golden skill right now, and you'll get a march of traffic as a reward. Of course, when these opps have turned up for me, it's usually been a reader or social-media pal who's given me the heads-up.
By the way, I'm not stopping here. Stay tuned for more...and thanks for reading, and your contributions, which are more than you know.

Related posts:  10 blogging lessons, five years in

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

The networked communicator: Upcoming resources and new resume tool

Most close readers know that helping you find a new job, or a job, isn't the primary focus of my consulting work. But times being what they are, I have lots of clients, friends and colleagues who want to explore their options, or have to do so.  I'm asked so often for advice on using social media for this purpose that I've started a series on this blog called the networked communicator.

In 2011, I'm going to be launching some new resources--short workshops and ebooks, among other things--on what networked communicators should know.  I'll be looking for ways to conduct workshops at or near some of the major meetings you're already attending, to make it easier for more folks to be there. You can join a waiting list to learn more about these events and resources now by clicking on the "networked communicator" box in my subscription offerings.  If you already subscribe to my newsletters, but want the new information, just click on that box; if you want to try the other newsletters, please do sign up.  Now, on to today's new tool...

Do you need another online resume?

The networked communicator already has one or more online profiles, perhaps a website, and one heckuva Twitter feed.  Earlier this week, I told you about About. me, and today I'm exploring DoYouBuzz, a profile site that takes your resume and expands its options.  Do you really need another online resume? Perhaps so, particularly if any of the following are true for you:
  • You want to show samples of your videos, presentations, documents, and images that won't fit in other online profiles. Or you just want a more visually appealing resume.
  • You want to merge the full strength of your resume with all your social-networking presences.
  • You work internationally and need the resume translated into one or more languages.
  • You need more than one resume, but don't want to do all the cut-and-paste work.  DoYouBuzz lets you create a suite of resumes for different purposes.
  • You want to show depth in your resume, without drowning the recipient in paper or PDFs. DoYouBuzz makes it easy for you to use the shorter version of your resume as the readable front page, with "learn more" tabs that let you go deep on any one portion of your work experience.
  • You want to keep it simple and shareable, so you can post or embed the resume on your own website or other profiles, track visits, optimize the resume so you're easily found in search engines and do all this without technical help.
As with other profiles, you need to pick and choose. But that video-sharing and slide-sharing option, to my mind, is a strong advantage for this service. The freemium version is robust enough for most users, and a paid version gets you a name-customized URL, unlimited numbers of resumes, more statistics and design options for $39 a year.
Social Times offers a preview here and here's the Do You Buzz video overview:

DoYouBuzz - General Presentation from Jérémie Pottier on Vimeo.

You can see mine here--it's the basic account, and imports my LinkedIn information, with some edits. I'll be adding video and photos shortly, as those are appealing options to me.  Would you try this one?

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Handheld science: Mobile devices at scientific conferences

Russ Campbell, communications officer for the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, asked me for some ideas on how scientists might use handheld mobile devices at scientific meetings. His article--which includes a look at how one scientist's using her iPad at conferences--is called Handheld Science. Check out the article for thoughts on networking, meeting new colleagues, presenting, collaborating and even getting more publicity during conferences.
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Weekly writing coach: A page, a phrase, or a novel with these online tools

Need to crank out some writing--a page, a phrase, perhaps a whole novel, just to practice the long form? There are new online tools, challenges and more to help you:

  • Need to write a page? How about a page a day? One Page Per Day doesn't have a fancy interface--it looks like a blank page and the type you enter looks like typewriter lettering.  But you do get a gentle reminder to write a page per day, perhaps just the nudge you need to practice, try out new ideas, or focus on that ebook you've been meaning to write.
  • Need to write a phrase? Here's a new writing tool with a web 2.0 solution to phrase choices: enter a couple of options and use search results to figure out which one is more viable -- or discreetly check your proofreading. Download Squad surfaces a new tool, Phras.in, which seeks to answer the question "how many times did you come up with two ways to say the same thing, and couldn't decide which one was the best fit?" Check out your phrase alternatives and find out the one more commonly used.
  • Need to write a novel? This will push you past a page a day, let alone a phrase: It's almost National Novel Writing Month, fondly known as NaNoWriMo, the effort to encourage you to write a novel (that is, 50,000 words) in a month. You'll find tips and support for getting through the marathon on the website, but you may also want to try the preview of Scrivener 2.0, offered just for NaNoWriMo. It's described as a "powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft."  Cheers to that!
If you've used these tools, share your reactions in the comments.
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Speaking workshop deadline looms. Will you get "Good on Your Feet" next week?

If you want to be able to handle a roomful of questioners--at a news conference, speech or presentation--and do it without needing your notes or losing your cool, there are still a few days left to register for "Good On Your Feet," my two-day workshop on dynamic speaking skills Nov. 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.  You'll learn all the components of dynamic speaking -- being ready with a message, relaxed in your movements and mindset, and resilient during Q&A or challenges from the audience.  And because it's a small-group session, there will be plenty of time for hands-on exercises and practice.  Find out more at the links above and below--and if you subscribe to my newsletter, you'll get an immediate discount on workshop registration.  I'm looking forward to working with you!

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The puddle test for social media: Do you get your feet wet?

How do you negotiate puddles? Your answer might tell you a lot about how you view--and approach--social media as a communications tool.  Do you put on protective footgear before you leave the house, because there might be puddles? Cross the street to avoid a puddle? Walk carefully around it? Try to jump over it? Stride through it? Put your toe in the water to test it out? Splash around for a while?

In Washington, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery share a covered courtyard with water scrims--fountains that lie flat on the stone floor and recirculate water in a rectangular puddle one-quarter inch deep. They're designed to be walked through, with a flow level that ensures your shoes will be dry by the time you hit the doors to the museum.

Most visitors don't know that, however, so it's fun to watch who decides to just walk through the scrims and who plays in them (mostly kids, but I like to walk through them and look for alarmed faces when I head for the museum door). To me, these are puddles that invite an adventuresome, check-it-out experience; to others, they're made to viewed from a distance, not forged.

So it is with social media, a series of puddles that some are carefully walking around or through, keeping that protective footgear firmly on: "I'll do it if I have to, but I don't like it."  Others are out trying the puddles, dipping a toe in, getting used to how that feels, finding that the bottom is more reachable than it looks at first.  And others are standing around indoors, saying, "That fool thinks he's Gene Kelly in 'Singing in the Rain', but he's just wet." 

Even if you like puddles, most days in the social-media world it feels like it's raining apps and dogs. There are loads of new puddles being formed, and you need to decide how to negotiate them. Must you jump into all of them? When I speak on social media topics, there's nearly always one communicator who asks, "Just tell me which two sites I need to focus on," which to me is a bit like saying, "Tell me which puddles to jump into," in my book.

That's really a question only you can answer--and only by putting your toes in the water.  Chris Dixon wrote "You Need to Use Social Services to Understand Them" to respond to Malcom Gladwell's article on "why the revolution will not be tweeted."  Dixon notes that Gladwell, skeptical of social media, uses little of it--and that he, too, once held back until required to do so:

I finally relented at the insistence of Caterina, who had the foresight to insist that everyone at Hunch blog, tweet, contribute to open source projects, etc. I now get some of my best ideas from responses to tweets and blog posts, and have developed dozens of strong relationships through the experience.

His main point: Don't stand inside, nice and dry, and criticize what you haven't tried. Using a variety of (not necessarily all) social media services will help you understand which ones work for you. If you haven't done so, insisting that your team members at least try social media will net you more people willing to try new things later on.

For those of you who like to sample puddles, but feel there are too many to try, you might do what I do: Collect string on new ones that catch your eye, use your social networks to ask who else is considering them (and find a buddy to try it out with), and figure out when it's time to dip your toe in the puddle. When you do, tell the rest of us that you're trying it and share some resources.  One puddle explorer I follow, Steve Buttry of TBD.com, did just that this week with this post on Twitter:

Which social media puddles are you putting your toes into right now?  What are you experimenting with--and how?  Head to the comments--your shoes will be dry by the time you get there--and tell us what you're trying.  (Flickr photo of Smithsonian Kogod Courtyard fountain by lizkdc)

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.
I finally relented at the insistence of Caterina, who had the foresight to insist that everyone at Hunch blog, tweet, contribute to open source projects, etc. I now get some of my best ideas from responses to tweets and blog posts, and have developed dozens of strong relationships through the experience.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Weekend read: Didn't share these on Twitter

This week, the don't get caught team retreated to a secret, undisclosed location to plot and plan new ventures, coverage and consulting services...and while my plan was to tweet far less than usual, I also found glitches in a few feeds,  so many items I meant to share stayed hidden. All the more reason to do this weekly roundup--so you can see what I managed to share (and didn't) this week on Twitter, where I'm @dontgetcaught:
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weekly writing coach: How do you organize what you want to write or blog?

You've been collecting string on your topic for a while--or at least, you think you have a few leads and resources tucked away somewhere. But how to gather up the right ideas and get them organized into an actual article, memo, blog post or other written piece? Here, some inspiration:
  • Scour your inadvertent content ledgers: Chances are, you're already keeping a ledger of potential content--you just need to audit it to find what you need to blog. Georgy Cohen tells you how to mine those inadvertent posts that contain fodder suitable for posts, which might include "A reply here, a comment there, a shared item over there...added up, there is a lot of value."  All that social-media interaction can yield plenty of ideas.
  • Create, then use, whole conversations:  Here's one blog post written based on questions asked and answered during a chat on Twitter with many users, and some ideas about rethinking how you use Twitter. In this case, social media tools helped generate the ideas and responses, and took notes that were easy to search for and use afterward.  (You can do this with almost any social networking tool, from bookmarking sites to Facebook pages.)
  • Plot it on a grid:  If you have a complex progression of facts and figures to work through, consider plotting a grid like J.K. Rowling did for the Harry Potter books.
  • Use your blogging tool to organize your scraps into a real meal:  Rohit Bhargava just looked back on several years of blogging and suggests you half-write and title your blog posts while the idea is hot, then go back and finish it later. I do this, too. The half-crafted post is both a way of taking notes and, as Bhargava points out, a quick way to get past the blank slate.
What are you using to gather and organize your raw material? Leave word in the comments.


Learn to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

Time to put your boots up and rest over the weekend? I've done a roundup for you of the tips and ideas I found and shared on Twitter, where my handle is @dontgetcaught.  Check out what made it into my own personal OK Corral:
  • Advertise it: Internet advertising hit a new high, with businesses and individuals spending just over $12 billion in the first half of this year.
  • Go mobile, young teen:  Nielsen's got more data on teenagers and their mobile habits, including why they seem to text so much.
  • Add it up:  Journalistics gathers data comparing an old-time metric--newspaper circulation--with the online presence of major papers. Dive deep into this trove.
  • Map it, from wayback: Here in Washington, the city's going to publish a trove of historical maps on Flickr, another good example of mixing history, visuals, photo-sharing, crowdsourcing and maps, all strong social media trends.
  • Capture captions:  Want to capture text from a YouTube video that's captioned? Google tells you where to find it and how to download it.
  • Visualize health: If you care about health--personal or public--or infographics, or both, this is a detailed look at how visualizations communicate health information, taking perspectives from history as well as today.
  • Promote it: Here are two more universities--the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the University of Southern California--using Foursquare to promote events: a concert and the inauguration of a new president.
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Twitter DMs: Not as off-the-record as you may have thought

I love a backchannel conversation as much as the next person, and the options for holding private conversations on social media--like "secret" groups on Facebook or Twitter direct messages (known as DMs for short)--have an appeal for professional communicators and reporters who want the ease of social networks and the privacy of off-the-record conversations.

Turns out, though, that when it comes to Twitter DMs, you and your correspondent may not be the only people who can see them.  PC World and GigaOm note that third-party apps with access to your Twitter account also may be able to see--and publish--your direct messages.  From PC World:

While the DMs are ostensibly private, the reality is that any apps that have been approved to access your Twitter account can also see those “private” messages. There are only two types of account access authorizations: read-only, or read-and-write. In either case, the fact that the app has been granted permission to access the account at all means that all Twitter messages, including DMs are accessible to the app. In the event of read-and-write approval, the app could also delete your messages, or send messages out on your behalf.
PC World includes the steps to take to check which programs have access to your account--which it's easy to revoke. Go to "settings," then "connections" to see your list.  If you're like me, over the years you've signed up for a variety of mobile apps, joint sign-ins with sites like Facebook and fun apps that show your follower stats or who's been favoriting your tweets.  Let me suggest that communicators (and the reporters to whom they're leaking stuff) schedule a monthly cleanup chore with this task in mind...and think before you tweet, even in a DM. 

I hope no one out there is still wondering why my company's called don't get caught. Let's be careful out there.  (A hat tip to Steve Rubel for sharing this link on Twitter.)

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Is Twitter like handling live Q&A and presentations?

Every once in a while, my world implodes and my two primary blogs -- this one, and The Eloquent Woman, my public speaking blog -- wind up with an overlapping path. Usually, that's by my own design, but this week, a reader saw some synergy between the two when it comes to Twitter. She wrote:
I'm relatively new to Twitter, and it occurs to me that much of the same advice you give on tone, presentation and responding to questions also apply to people's tweets. Although it's less formal, I've found myself thinking about the mix of what I tweet, how I word things (so they're a little clearer and more user-friendly), and being courteous, giving credit, etc., simliar to handling a Q&A or a presentation. I enjoy your mix of public speaking and cooking topics on @dontgetcaught. (Did you really make the swiss chard tart?)
I agree with this clever take -- so much so that I posted earlier this week on The Eloquent Woman about 14 ways to integrate Twitter into your public speaking.  Twitter differs from public speaking in that everyone has a microphone, if they wish to use it (and many on Twitter, like any live-and-in-person audience, just listen rather than pipe up).  Some choose to ask their questions on the backchannel, just as live audience members might prefer to speak to the presenter one-on-one afterward, or wait to write a note later, In this case, the reader's question came in via email, but in other cases I have long direct-message conversations going on on Twitter. 

From the point of view of one "presenting" information on Twitter, I think you need to have a balanced mix of personal and professional information on Twitter if you are using it for business purposes.  Here's an earlier post on how I balance the personal and the professional on Twitter, and yes, sometimes it involves sharing recipes...which inevitably leads to conversations and better relationships. And swiss chard tart recipes, about which more later.  The same holds true for speakers and presenters.  Personal stories are a highly effective tactic for presenters to use to underscore a point, drive home an image or detail, and to connect with the audience, whether you want to inspire, persuade or challenge that audience.

Just as speakers need graceful ways with Q&A, I agree with this reader that it takes good manners--plus time and practice--to develop a deft hand with social media.  Misunderstandings, however, can be magnified on Twitter, where things are fast-moving and limited by the character count.  And on Twitter, you're missing the one great tool all speakers and presenters should know how to use: Visual and verbal (and sometimes aural) cues from the audience. So you need to listen with care, and respond likewise.

And that swiss chard tart recipe? I shared that because I have another blog on my organic vegetable subscription through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) collective; my farmer grows a lot of chard and that recipe will come in handy for me (and a few readers) when I post it this week on Vegetables for Breakfast.  But I knew my Twitter audience would like it, too.

Do you think of Twitter--and post on it--as a presentation or Q&A-type rolling conversation? Chime in with your comments.

Want to handle Q&A and other extemporaneous presentation and speaking skills? Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And thereby hangs a tale: When small data points become great stories

Data points: You're swimming in them, and ignoring them like so much plankton in the vast ocean, mainly because all that data's overwhelming.  But those small bits of data also are the basis for great stories and great storytelling opportunities you may be missing. 

But first, the ocean: This IBM video does a great job describing the vast amount of data that's available on the Internet, to give you an idea of the potential here. The video itself is a wonderful animated infographic and describes how we move from data to information to knowledge to wisdom:



Now, how to get from data points to stories? You need to pay attention to the small points, those plankton in the sea of data. Here are some tips, tools and examples to inspire you:
  • Stories from data patterns: An alert Maine resident documented a record-breaking path of one whale--6,000 miles from Brazil to Madagascar.  She compared photos of migrating whales' tails posted to Flickr against a database of photos of whale tails compiled by scientists for more than 30 years to identify and follow this particular whale. This citizen scientist just had her discovery published in the journal Biology Letters, contributing to scientific knowledge using freely available data--in this case, photos.  Looking for patterns and similarities gave her the ability to turn an ocean of visual data into the story of one whale's very long migration, a story that involves many chance photographs and photographers.
  • Stories left in the comments:  The Online Journalism Blog's post on "stories hidden in the data, stories in the comments" offers a good reminder to cull comments for new stories or expansions of the story you've put out there.  Looking at a visualization of tax data, it sees several data points highlighted that might not otherwise have been covered--and the comments yield similar gems on which new stories can be built.  It notes, "By publishing the data and having built the healthy community that exists around the data blog, McCandless and The Guardian benefit from some very useful comments (aside from the odd political one) on how to improve both the data and the visualisation. This is a great example of how the newspaper is stealing an enormous march on its rivals in working beyond its newsroom in collaboration with users." If you doubt that users want to play with data you're hanging on to, read about how the Texas Tribune's using its databases as an engagement and participation tool.
  • Stories raked up by apps: ReadWriteCloud blog offers these 5 tools for online journalism, exploration and visualization, ranging from heat maps to tools that make use (and sense) of open government data. Consider taking your data and mashing it up with another available database to come up with a unique (and perhaps useful) story.
  • Stories in real time:  The New York Times today is keeping track of the Chilean miners who've been brought to the surface and those still underground with a cunning at-a-glance infographic.  Faces of those underground are shown, along with the sunglasses-clad faces of those brought up.  On a day when the world's watching and only two data points matter--who's been rescued, and who's left to rescue--this one captures it beautifully.
By the way, your "data" doesn't need to be statistics, per se.  It might take the form of:
  • A group of related reader comments, a sure-fire way to develop stories that you know your audience cares about;
  • Opinions from key influential participants in your organization, from donors and board members to customers and partners;
  • Historic documents, photos and artifacts, and readers' comments or additional information about them;
  • Real-time observations you're collecting during an event, crisis or ongoing activity.
If you've got another great example of small data points turning into stories, please share them in the comments. (Hat tips to Nancy Shute and Joe Bonner.)

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

13 ways communicators can use the new Kindle Singles

Amazon announced today that it will offer for sale Kindle Singles and called on people and organizations of all kinds to produce them.  The "singles" are written products that fall between 10,000 and 30,000 words, or 30 to 90 pages, which would make them longer than a long-form magazine article and shorter than a complete book.  The advent of these short-form Kindle documents opens up new possibilities for communicators.

At this point, you're thinking, "We already publish on our website, on Facebook and we link to things on Twitter. We offer PDFs and print versions. We post on a blog. Why do we need Amazon? We're not producing the great American novel, and this duplicates what we're already doing."  You're not alone in ignoring Amazon as a distribution channel.  In this discussion at the recent Communicators Network conference, foundation communicators were reminded:
Are you a foundation with data and analysis you want people to read? Post them on Amazon. After all, even people like me who buy as much as we can from independent bookstores use Amazon as our reference librarian in the cloud. Put your stuff where people look for stuff. MacArthur and Knight Foundation (and probably others already do this).
Nieman Journalism Lab has already suggested Kindle Singles could be a potential new home for in-depth news coverage, noting that the suggested length "is right in the ballpark for many multi-day investigations and narrative series. (Ten thousand words is about 280 inches, newsies.)"  The post points out that using the Kindle Single approach makes publishing easy.  You don't need to set up your own online shopping cart, and Kindle now offers free apps for viewing Kindle documents on PCs and Macs, as well as iPhones, iPads, Android devices and BlackBerry devices--which means your publication can reach the widest possible audience, wherever it wants to be reading.

So if you want to "put your stuff where people look for stuff"--the communications polar opposite of "If we build it, they will come"--or find a home for longer-form publications and writings coming out of your company or organization, here are 13 things you might consider publishing as Kindle Singles:
  1. Important speeches.
  2. Annual reports.
  3. Transcripts from lectures or conference sessions.
  4. Transcripted interviews and oral histories.
  5. A curated collection of blog posts on a single topic.
  6. Data collections and chart books.
  7. Briefings and white papers.
  8. A curated collection of letters.
  9. A collection of personal stories. 
  10. Essays, or collections of essays.
  11. A company or organizational history.
  12. User guides and instructional materials.
  13. A collection of news releases on one topic or specialty area.
I know I'm missing some ideas, here--so please add to this list in the comments. Would you use Kindle Singles as a publishing tool? What would you publish this way?

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

The devil's in the complex question: Are you good on your feet with media?

I learned early on to look for the devil in the details of a two-part question from a reporter--one of my favorites used to put two disparate questions into two separate clauses of the same sentence, and woe be unto you if you didn't notice.

In "Watching a misquote in real time," King Kaufman offers a detailed breakdown of how the same thing happened to a 49ers linebacker.  The team had just lost a game, putting it at 0-5.  The question from a local NBC affiliate repoter was "“Is 0-5 insurmountable? Can you guys get back in this?”  And the full answer was "Absolutely not. I don’t think so. I know we still have a chance. Only thing I’m hanging my hat on is: We need to find a spark. Period.”

It's worth reading this breakdown, since Kaufman looks at how the resulting television show emphasized only part one of the answer--"Absolutely not"--and suggested that it referred to the second part of the two-part question, when the full answer suggests otherwise.  He reminds reporters:
It’s important to listen to the person you’re interviewing. That might sound silly, but for those of you who’ve never done it, it’s actually sometimes really difficult to do that. Scott had a lot to think about — not tripping as he and Spikes walked together, microphone placement, his back-pedaling camera person, what he was going to say next and so on — and actually catching which part of his question Spikes was responding to when he said “Absolutely not” was a tall order. Which is why you don’t ask questions like that. 
But reporters do ask questions like that, some intentionally, some in sloppy technique. I'd paraphrase that advice if you're the interviewee, speaking to a reporter on the fly:  It's important to listen to the person who's interviewing you. That might sound silly, but for those of you who haven't thought about it, it's actually sometimes really difficult to do that.  Here are some tips for recognizing and responding to complex questions:
  • Listen for verbal red flags:  I always listen for two-part questions ("Do you walk to work or do you carry your lunch?"), especially when the two parts are disparate topics or directions.  Other red flags are any question that presumes an answer ("You must be really happy now"), because your first impulse may be to make a short, unequivocal denial or agreement like "Absolutely not"--a short response that can be taken out of context.
  • Stop and ask a clarifying question or otherwise break apart the question:  "Which of those do you want me to answer first?" or "Let's go back to the first part of that question, so I can talk specifically about x."  If you're in a place where you can write down the questions, do it and refer to your notes. 
  • If the question is long and presumptive, make your answer a complete thought.  In this example, that would involve saying something like, "0-5 is absolutely not insurmountable. We're going to keep pushing." Even if the latter sentence were dropped, you've answered the presumptive question in a way that can't be easily edited.
  • Pause before you jump in with an answer, particularly when answering a compound question. Even a few seconds of reflection will help you avoid getting caught in this way.
My November 3 and 4 workshop, "Good on Your Feet," includes a significant portion on handling Q&A and other extemporaneous situations where you need to speak clearly but on the fly. Registration details are below.

UPDATE: King Kaufman was quick on the draw and said nice things about this post.
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. I also offer one-on-one and group media interview skills training; just email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for more information.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

We can put off raking leaves for a couple of weeks yet, at least in my neighborhood. But why not rake up some good ideas before the weekend? I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, where I share good reads, news on communications and social media, and other resources.  This is a weekly compilation of posts from others that caught my eye in the week of October 4:
  • What's your one-line bio?  Anil Dash takes a look at the briefest of online profiles and how they came to be, then offers some great tips for what yours should include.
  • What do your @ replies say about you?  In the same vein, I'll bet you haven't looked at how your @ replies to others on Twitter look--but GigaOm tells you what those tea leaves can say to protential clients, partners and employers.
  • Shopping crops up in new places:  YouTube launched its first shopping site for retailer French Connection, and Amazon opened a store for Pampers on Facebook, both firsts that will expand the amount of time users spend on those sites.
  • Shorter Facebook Page feed stories:  Page administrators, heads up! Comments on your page posts will now be condensed when users see them in their news feeds--so you can't count on the comments luring folks in.  It's a space-saving move that allows users to pack more into their news feeds.
  • Mobile phones help community health organizers:  When you're thinking of uses for mobile phones and apps, consider far-flung examples like this one shared by NetSquared about a project in Senegal.
  • Collect that Facebook info now:  You can now download information you posted to Facebook in order to save it permanently--a smart step to take. TechCrunch clues you in.
  • What about the new Facebook Groups? I hear you cry. Cry no more:  Inside Facebook looks at how the new feature integrates with other core applications like news feeds, events and mobile.
  • Google News gets some friends:  Word came this week that Google News is testing integration with Twitter, which would bring friending to Google News.  Could be a solid new tool in media relations--I'll be keeping my eye on this.
  • Robot reporting? It's more common than you may think. 10,000 Words looks at how automated reporting is used at major papers around the U.S.
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Acronyms: Just jargon that won't help you communicate

Acronyms are an inside game, shorthand for those who'll frequently repeat the words involved...and, if it's the type of acronym that spells out a special word, a bit of a rallying cry or inside joke for the team.

But all that sets up a speed bump between you and your external audience. The inside knowledge, special significance and shorthand understanding you packed into that acronym don't translate to the people you're trying to reach...and may make it harder, rather than easier, for them to understand and appreciate what you have to say.  That's the best-case scenario.

Then there's the confusion factor. I belong to one group--the National Association of Science Writers--that shares a lot of misdirected web traffic with the similar group for social workers. ACS can stand for the American societies for cancer, chemistry and surgery, as well as groups representing Alaska, computer science, children's services, and cold sores.  How does the acronym help those groups, outside their borders?

Perhaps that's why I cheered Natalie Angier's minor rant in the New York Times, STEM education has little to do with flowers. STEM stands for "science, technology, engineering and mathematics," the result of a battle to get these specific disciplines mentioned consistently when science is discussed.  She notes:
Go to any convention, Congressional hearing or science foundation bagel chat on the ever ominous theme of “Science in the Classroom, and why can’t our students be more like Singapore’s when they take international tests anyway?” and you’ll hear little about how to teach trigonometry or afford all those Popsicle sticks needed for the eighth-grade bridge-building competition, but you’ll be pelted by references to STEM.
Scientists, who already claim several special languages of their own, do seem prone to acronym-itis and even coming up with shorthand that's longer than what it's describing, but then, so do universities, government agencies and other large bureaucracies. Even the U.S. Congress has caught the fever, with what seems like every other bill getting a title that makes an acronym intended to underscore the issue. As a longtime observer of science communication, the STEM trend just adds to the jargon, in my view, without helping to recruit outsiders to its cause. It's pushing away, rather than pulling in, those who might be supporters.
Communicators, do you part: Coach your leaders to refer to your organization name full out, or say "the university," "the association" or "the company" in preference to an acronym when speaking. And if you can quietly discourage the clever acronym, do so. An uphill battle, I know, but try.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tomorrow: For Communications Directors newsletter, special report, and a discount

For Communications Directors, my monthly newsletter, will be out tomorrow with some extras for subscribers--so today's a good day to sign up:
  • I'm offering a 25% discount to newsletter subscribers for my next public speaking training, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop.  Links to subscribe to the newsletters and register for the workshop are at the end of this post.
  • Communications directors with new CEOs can follow the subscription link to sign up for a new offering: a free special report on Rethinking Media Training for Today's Leaders.  I've collected all the background reading you need about considering the CEO's image, where I advise you to focus her training these days, and extras on CEOs using social media. Get up to speed so you can advise your leader about the latest approaches, and so I can help you craft a training that meets your CEO's current needs.
And I'll have more fresh content in the newsletter, before it appears here on the blog.  As always, I look forward to your thoughts and reactions.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.  If you subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, you can take a 25 percent discount off registration for this small-group intensive training.

Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Can you get caught by success? Announcements that exceed expectations

Go ahead and drop this post on the desk of that person who keeps saying, "Any publicity is good publicity." Sometimes, success is a problem. One of the easiest ways to get caught in communications is by failing to plan for success. You know what I'm talking about: You put out releases or pitch stories, post things to your website, offer discounts, throw events and extend invitations.  And because you're good at what you do, you lower expectations and caution everyone not to expect much, to balance out all those people who think you need only phone up the New York Times in order to get on the front page, or that Oprah's just waiting for you to arrive in Chicago.

Most of the time, this is a fine approach, healthier for one's blood pressure and for avoiding the "boy who cried wolf" reputation one can get from overpromising results.  But it falls flat when the unthinkable thing--success--happens. Suddenly, your announcement is trending on Twitter or jamming the phone lines or crashing your server.  The first rule of don't get caught, after all, is to avoid getting caught unprepared.

36 words to a crashed server

In "We Got a Mention! Now Let's Panic," the New York Times looks at how a start-up candymaker was caught by surprise, with a brief mention in Oprah's magazine:
The mention was tiny — just 36 words in a wee stripe on the bottom of a page. Nevertheless, things went haywire.  “Our server crashed,” says [company founder] Mr. LaCava, recalling how their orders quintupled overnight. “The phone was ringing round the clock. We’d thought, ‘Oh, we’re going to be in Oprah! We’re going to be making so many more bars!’ We didn’t think: ‘People are going to be calling us every second of the day.’”
You don't need to be a start-up to have this happen--I've seen it occur at small nonprofits and big universities, companies and hospitals.

Line up your partners so you can dance faster
The best antidote I know is to line up your internal partners, from IT to the folks who answer phones to the rest of your senior management--and to do that not once, before one announcement, but routinely.  They should know that you'll be coming to them periodically with announcements with ramifications for their units, along with time to strategize and, where needed, help with what to say and how to handle it.  I've been well-known for establishing cross-department coordination meetings, either in the months leading up to a major event or monthly, for more routine announcement. Everyone learns far more than they would otherwise about what's next in the life of the organization, and it leads to better, more informed work all around.  And in a world where no one wants more meetings, no one's complained about coming to these coordinating meetings in my experience--they're too valuable.
Assign particular viewpoints on your team
In this interview, Paul Moritz talks about having a champion for the customer on your team, noting, " it’s important to have somebody who empathizes and understands how customers will see it. I’ve seen many endeavors fail because people weren’t able to connect the strategy to the way the customers would see the issue."

For any public activity, you'd do well to assign at least one person to think through the customer view...as well as the service view (how the phones get answered and queries handled), the technology view (what might crash or need to work differently) and the goalpost view, or where do we want to end up when this is all over?  Make sure they have time to do the research they need, and make sure their input gets reflected in the planning. 

And what if, after all that, nothing happens and crickets chirp? Consider yourself ready for what comes next. You'll want to follow a similar process every time, even in small, to avoid getting caught--and to make sure you're taking advantage of success when it shows up.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Weekend read: My weekly share on Twitter

I'm @dontgetcaught on Twitter, and over the course of the past week, I shared and re-tweeted lots of articles, resources and ideas from my sources. Pull off at this exit and consider these options:
  • Prize patrol:  Science communicators know this well, but the Nobel Prizes start coming next week on Monday.  I shared the Nobel Prize reminder, and you can follow it here on Twitter.  I'll be watching how social media use affects the announcements. Good luck to all your experts!
  • The "now what?" squad:  Nieman Lab looks at an evolving issue for community news sites: After the startup frenzy, now what? with insights from the data-rich Community News Summit recently held in Chicago. This post focuses on creating relationships between news organizations and the communities in which they're working and is loaded with links.
  • Not a nation of content creation: Forrester--which describes social media users in a variety of categories, depending on whether you read, share, create or curate on your networks--says social networking's on the rise, but content creation? Not so much. For those of us who do create content, that means the channels may not be as noisy as you think.
  • Commenters' corner:  Reuters announced a new policy for comments, moving (as many news organizations have done) to a "recognized user" approach. It's worth reading this post to hear Reuters' process in coming to this decision, as it may be useful for your comments policy. 
  • Rewrite hell:  The New York Times did an analysis of "headlines we love too much." Among the overused faves were headlines following the construction "Doing ________, One ______ at a Time." You might want to comb through six months' worth of your headlines for the same reason.
  • Big kid on the block?  LinkedIn announced a major revamp that's expected to make it more competitive with Facebook and other heavy-hitting sites.  Among the changes: A full stream of user posts, a la Twitter. Get up to speed with these changes.
  • The well-liked page:  Facebook's page on PR on Facebook shared data about the value of a liker. Useful stuff for your own FB page.
  • Phone home, for work:  I love using Google Voice for business, and Mashable looked at five ways you can use it for work purposes.
  • Placing that to-do list:  About Foursquare suggests a smart possibility: Using the to-do list feature to curate options for those who check-in to a location.
  • Your moving target:  Steve Buttry shares loads of links about putting mobile first in this post, part of a workshop he did for the National Newspaper Association.
Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.  Then head over to don't get caught on Facebook, where you'll see new social media trends, technology and communications issues as they crop up during the week--and great conversations with our community of communicators.